With the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow, it’s obvious that there is consensus among many world leaders and key stakeholders that much more needs to be done.
The ambition of keeping global warming to a 1.5-degree increase needs to be met.
Yet talk is cheap. In the words of Greta, too much “blah, blah, blah”. The global climate crisis demands a response, with commitments backed up by resources and collaboration.
We cannot have countries or organizations working in silos.
And we cannot de-couple climate considerations from the broader sustainability agenda, as exemplified by the Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 13 in particular.
Widening perspectives to understand all impacts
If we achieve net-zero emissions yet overlook human rights, or fail to safeguard biodiversity, what will this mean for the wellbeing of people and planet?
At GRI, we provide the global common language for organizations to communicate their impacts. The GRI Standards broadly address a company’s impacts on the economy, environment and people, in a holistic and comprehensive way.
Through GRI’s engagements at COP26 we have focused on how sustainability reporting can inform decisions for faster action on climate change and related sustainability issues.
It will only be through concerted and connected action on these commitments, informed by evidence and data, that we can seize the opportunities for an inclusive and sustainable future.
Collaboration between public and private sectors
Alongside global coordination between governments, we need to engage the private sector as a key partner in the realization and implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.
Working closely with the UN Global Compact and other international organizations, GRI strives to highlight and increase the importance of corporate sustainability reporting for the SDGs.
In addition, 55% are confident that the global business community will do so as well.
The transition does not stop at emissions; as identified in a recent report from the Future of Sustainable Data Alliance, there is a ‘ESG data hole’ when it comes to biodiversity and nature.
KPMG research from December 2020 also found that less than a quarter of large companies at risk from biodiversity loss disclose on the topic.
Action that delivers tangible results
However, it is encouraging that well over 100 countries have signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, committing to work collectively to halt and reverse forestry loss and land degradation by 2030, while promoting an inclusive rural transformation.
This is a commendable vision, but we need to hold all parties to these commitments.
To secure tangible results – from safeguarding the environment to wider progress on the sustainability agenda – the action needs to start today.
It cannot become a carte blanche to maintain ‘business as usual’ until 2030.
Regular and comprehensive reporting on sustainability impacts, with accountability from all organizations with an involvement, is essential to measure progress.
Effective sustainability reporting offers a unique perspective on the role of the private sector, helping countries to work towards the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
While a multi-faceted approach is needed to reach these goals, we should be no means downplay the significance of reaching net-zero. It is not a matter of either/or – we need to dramatically cut emissions and secure broader sustainable development in the process.
It’s time for true leadership
There are strong signs that business is already convinced of the urgency of the situation – and is, in fact, pressing governments to do much more. The We Mean Business Coalition call to action urges the G20 to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
It has been signed so far by 778 business leaders – representing US$2.7 trillion in annual revenue. Furthermore, one-in-five companies around the world have set net-zero targets.
Last week, WBCSD launched a manifesto that calls for a new ‘Corporate Determined Contributions’ mechanism to measure the private sector’s role in the global climate recovery.
Focussing on the imperatives to reduce, remove and report GHG emissions, it reflects a growing trend of responsible companies pressing for greater support of climate action.
GRI calls on all stakeholders to raise their ambitions, act now on their commitments, and work together to deliver a holistic approach to the challenges of climate change.
One that takes account of the environment and society – cutting emissions while also securing sustainable development. Failure on either front will mean tragic consequences for all.
Tina Nybo Jensen is the International Policy Manager at GRI. She leads on the development, management and implementation of GRI’s Sustainable Development Program, with a special focus on the SDGs and engagement with multilateral organizations.